OLYMPIA — Thousands of state government workers received notifications Monday that they may be temporarily laid off starting next week.
Financial managers under Gov. Jay Inslee directed agencies to start sending notices because lawmakers have been unable to finalize a budget. The Office of Financial Management estimates that at least 25,000 would be furloughed if there is no budget deal, although some of those workers may not get their notices immediately.
The Department of Social and Health Services was in the process Monday afternoon of distributing information to about 7,700 employees who would be kept from work, said agency spokeswoman Chris Case. She was tasked with notifying workers in the public affairs department and told each one that she hopes the agency will never have to implement the plan.
“No matter how hopeful you are about the Legislature, it just gives you an awful feeling in your gut,” Case said. She added that agency workers were particularly worried about the members of the public they serve.
The state believes 34 agencies will have to cease operations next week while another 24 agencies would be partially shut down.
Washington’s current two-year budget comes to a close at the end of June. Lawmakers have been struggling for several weeks to reach compromise on how to spend government dollars in the coming two years.
Leaders in both parties have repeatedly asserted that they will reach agreement and avoid a government shutdown, although lawmakers have blown past all their other deadlines so far. They were initially supposed to complete a budget in April.
On Monday afternoon, the governor met with Republican leaders to continue negotiations. Inslee planned an afternoon news conference to provide updates on the talks, although Inslee spokeswoman Jaime Smith said no deal had been reached.
Senate leaders argue that lawmakers in the House are favoring social services programs over education funding. House leaders contend that the Senate is looking to cut some existing human services and health care programs in order to reach some arbitrary goals.